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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Tracy running for judge? Aren’t judges appointed?

In Michigan, judges are elected for six year terms. The governor is permitted to appoint a new judge when a seat is left open before the close of a term. When a judge retires at the end of a completed term, any community member who meets relevant requirements can run for the open seat. This judicial opening that Tracy is running for is an open seat.

What does it mean to be a family law seat?

The Washtenaw County Circuit Court judges work together with the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court to determine appropriate dockets. Family law cases represent approximately 50% of circuit court filings. Despite it being the most common filing, courts do not traditionally have judges with appropriate expertise to handle this docket. In fact, the judge with the least seniority is often designated to handle the family law docket because it is difficult and fraught with emotional parties struggling through highly personal crises. 

 

Consistent with recommendations of the MI Supreme Court, the Washtenaw County Circuit Court  determined that the newly elected judge would handle primarily family law cases, such as divorce, custody, and child support. Multiple local judges then worked together to recruit a candidate with relevant expertise. Tracy was recruited because, aside from her well-rounded litigation experience, her expertise in clinical social work and family law is unmatched by any other candidate. Although the chief judge may change after two years and the new chief may redetermine docketing, the majority of judges agree that it is best to have one judge designated to handle the family law docket long-term, as this will provide the stability and attention that the community deserves. As the Court is committed to this path, the family law designation of this seat is unlikely to change going forward. 


Chief Judge Carol Kuhnke explains the family law docket here, and the current Chief of the Family Court, Judge Patrick Conlin, provides his perspective on the designated family law seat here.

Why would being a social worker help in being a judge and relate to justice reform?

If elected, Tracy will use her social work expertise to establish specialty courts that remove barriers and are implemented through a restorative justice lens. In the family court, this means court services that address issues like substance abuse, domestic violence, and child support. Chief Judge Carol Kuhnke has also requested Tracy’s support to implement a mental health court that will extend to criminal cases. Tracy also plans to use her social work credentials to offer court-wide bias awareness trainings, provide trauma-informed services, and advocate for oversight, regular evaluations, and transparency of all dockets to stop systemic discrimination. No other candidate has the social work expertise needed to support cutting edge restorative justice programs from within the courthouse. These programs are key to improving our court system.

What are the primary differences between Tracy and her opponent?

Tracy is a credentialed clinical social worker who is certified in diagnosis, treatment, and psychotherapy. She also has elaborate family law experience, having argued cases at trial, the Michigan Court of Appeals, and Michigan Supreme Court. If elected, Tracy will only be the 3rd woman in 184 years to fill a seat on the Washtenaw County Circuit Court. 

Is Tracy qualified to handle cases that are not family law-related?

Tracy has extensive and versatile litigation experience handling cases in every area of the law covered by Washtenaw courts. Tracy began her legal career as an extern for the Washtenaw County Public Defender’s office. She is currently a senior litigator for the Michigan Attorney General’s office where she handles a variety of complex cases, ranging from children’s rights to constitutional Section 1983 claims. Prior to joining the Attorney General’s office, she handled multiple trials. Though she specialized in family law, she has also tried cases involving defamation, employment, real estate, contract, probate, consumer, and landlord tenant claims. Finally, she is no stranger to higher courts. She has argued well over a dozen cases on appeal, including establishing new law in a published family law decision.

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Paid for by Tracy Van den Bergh for Judge  PO Box 131429 Ann Arbor, MI 48113